1.10.22

LED ZEPPELIN FILM FROM BATH 1970

In terms of Holy Grail importance it ranks below footage from their first Scandinavian tour in 1968 or that final show in Berlin 12 years later, but film of Led Zeppelin’s renowned performance at the Bath Festival on the evening of Sunday, June 28, 1970, synced with sound for the first time, was briefly available last week for all to see on YouTube.  

        Not even walking Led Zeppelin encyclopaedia Dave Lewis can explain why it appeared on Thursday night of last week, only to be taken down 24 hours later. “Fans were awestruck across the globe,” says Dave, never one to play down a story about the group that has defined his life since he first heard them in 1969. “To see vivid moving colour images of this legendary Zep appearance was truly astonishing.”

        Dave let me know about this discovery late on Thursday night, drawing my attention to it with a link to the video that revealed John Paul Jones to be wearing white trousers with zoo animals printed on them. I didn’t notice this from the press pit where that day I observed Led Zep in action for the first time ever, headlining the first big rock festival I covered for Melody Maker

        The clip, which lasted about 10 minutes, featured snippets of ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Bring It On Home’ and ‘Thank You’, which had evidently been synchronised, probably by a fan, with a bootleg tape. To state that the group was on fire is no exaggeration, for this was the first huge gig they’d played in the UK and all four doubtless knew how crucial it was to make as good an impression at home as they had been doing in America over the past 18 months. 

        I remember it well, and have written about their set elsewhere on Just Backdated. Led Zeppelin simply exploded on that stage, blowing away all the other acts, and not just because they seemed one hell of a lot louder than everyone else. Hyper confident, they announced their arrival by playing ‘Immigrant Song’ – which I inadvertently called ‘Immigration Song’ in my review – which was yet to be released, its staccato riff reverberating over a crowd believed to be in the region of 150,000. Two and half hours later, pumped up to the eyeballs, they left the stage after a slew of encores that included seat-of-the-pants improvisations of many of their favourite rock’n’roll songs from the fifties.

        John Bonham, slimmer and probably fitter than he was in later years, is inexhaustible. Robert Plant dances around as if he’s barefoot on a hotplate, and even Jones, steady as ever on his Jazz Bass, moves about much more than he would later. Dressed in his yokel outfit, Jimmy Page is the least visible, somehow avoiding the cameras as he switches from hard chord grunge to delicate passages on his Les Paul guitar. 

        On a separate clip there are scenes of the group wandering around amidst the cars and caravans in the backstage area. Page is seen with girlfriend Charlotte Martin, and John Paul Jones escorts his friend Julie Felix. Donovan, LZ manager Peter Grant, tour manager Richard Cole and soundman Clive Coulson are also briefly seen. On that Sunday afternoon 52 years ago backstage at Bath was unquestionably the coolest place on earth, and I was there too, albeit not, alas, caught on camera. 

        The stage footage is over with pretty quick, and when I tried to access it again the following day was greeted with the message, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Kinolibrary”, which the internet tells me is an ‘independent agency representing remarkable and rare archive footage from around the world’.

        “This YouTube footage has been made available by the Kinolibrary film archive company,” says Dave Lewis. “By presenting silent footage they will have avoided any copyright issues with the music of Led Zeppelin which is owned by Warners. The synced footage matched to the clip independently might have a problem with this.”

        Dave confirms that the film was made by the late Peter Whitehead – famous for his films of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd and the January 9, 1970, Led Zeppelin concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Dave was present in May 2017 at a screening of the Albert Hall footage and observed bits of Led Zep memorabilia on display. Part of that was a vintage film label marked Led Zeppelin at Bath,” he recalls. “I was aware that Peter Whitehead had shot film of the band at the Bath Festival in 1970 and here was tangible evidence.”

Dave Lewis sent me this pic from Bath 
in which a cameraman can clearly be seen behind Robert Plant

        Present at this event was Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema and Director of Cinema and Television History Research Centre at Leicester University, who revealed he had viewed the 20 to 30-minute silent colour footage. He hoped one day it could be restored and see the light of day. He told Dave: “The problem, according to Peter Whitehead, was he was stuck in traffic and had trouble getting to Bath so he arrived late. He was supposed to film the band arriving by helicopter and he missed that.

        “And then when Led Zeppelin played, they played in the dark and there was insufficient stage lighting for his cameras. He reckoned that the footage, the live footage, was not usable … [but]… it can be restored now. 

        “It looks beautiful to me and I think it was recorded. The band probably have a recording of it. Peter was supposed to do interviews with the band members as well, but I don’t think that ever happened. But certainly, there is 20 or 30 minutes of footage from Bath.”

        Although the synced footage has been withdrawn, three silent colour clips of Zep at Bath in 1970, shot in 16mm, and two backstage/audience clips, can be readily viewed now via the Kinolibary YouTube channel. “Watch them and be amazed,” adds Dave. 

(The picture at the top of this post is the cover of a bootleg CD 
of Led Zeps Bath set I found on the internet.)

28.9.22

A CHARISMA RIVALRY


Fifty years ago today I crossed the Irish Sea to watch two groups on the Charisma label at Dublin Stadium, a 2,000-seater boxing arena where the ring had been removed so that a stage could extend out from one side. With the audience on the other three, it didn’t make for an ideal show. 

        Last night the headliners at this show, with one original member, played the 467-seat Leeds City Varieties Music Hall. The support act in Dublin, meanwhile, performed their last ever shows earlier this year, three nights at London’s 20,000-seat 02 Arena, with three original members and the singer fronting them 50 years ago sat in the audience for the final show.

        This change in fortune over half a century is all the more remarkable when you consider that the debut album by the headlining band in Dublin reached number eight in the LP charts and their chart-topping second was among the best-selling LPs in the UK during 1972. Released roughly the same time, the first two LPs by the support act failed to make the album charts at all, and their third only scraped in two years after release.

The groups in question, of course, were Lindisfarne, the folk-rock quintet from Newcastle, whom I loved, and Genesis, the ethereal prog rockers who weren’t really to my taste. Back when these two groups were rivals, Lindisfarne galloped way ahead in the Charisma Handicap but ran out of steam after two years at the top. Nevertheless, their sudden success largely financed the label’s early years and Genesis were among those who benefitted, progressing at a much steadier pace until they eventually became a stadium band with a sackful of gold and platinum LPs. 


Despite failing to back the winner in the long term, I hint at the writing on the wall in my review of the Dublin show for Melody Maker, which appeared in its October 7 (1972) edition. “To be casual is to be Lindisfarne,” I wrote, “but even the most relaxed of bands have a hard time putting over a set of new numbers when an audience hitherto starved of their music demands the oldies all the time.

        “Lindisfarne opened their current UK tour at Dublin Stadium last week, but I doubt whether the reaction to the concert went anywhere near to rivalling the reaction at the two Newcastle shows at the weekend. Lindisfarne have reached the dilemma that comes to so many bands who ‘make it’: how do you radically change a set when all the fans want to hear are the tunes they know.

        “Lindisfarne – normally the happiest bunch of Geordies you could hope to meet – were tense and nervous before this show. It’s unnecessary to say that after half a dozen shows they’ll swing together like clockwork again, but in Dublin – where the venue probably added to their problems – it was a rather wooden band who scaled the converted boxing ring to win the hearts of the Irish.

        “They were about 80 percent successful and Genesis, the supporting act who are equally well known across the Irish Sea, were 85 percenters.”

Lindisfarne had become friends of mine by the time I wrote this review, and I was trying hard to maintain my editorial objectivity. This was actually the second time I’d visited Ireland with them, and on the earlier occasion we’d taken a tour of the Guinness brewery together. This was unlikely to have occurred with Genesis. 

        “Before the show Alan Hull falls asleep in the dressing room, stretched along a wooden table and uncommunicative to all but himself,” I continued. “Simon Cowe has taken an armful of instruments to another room to begin the never-ending job of tuning. Between them Lindisfarne have four guitars, three mandolins, two basses and a banjo – a lot of tuning.

        “The rest watch Genesis who seem to hold a spell over the audience. Late arrivals wreck any early atmosphere the band attempt to create but once settled it’s obvious Genesis are respected. Peter Gabriel resembles Tutankhamen with his partially shorn head and elaborate necklace. His stories raise a laugh and the music brings cheers.

        “Genesis are not unlike Yes with their complicated, precise and well-rehearsed arrangements. The music is much harsher though and there’s an overall feeling of the macabre in what they do. One song, says Gabriel, is devoted to ‘Hammer Productions’, and for another he dons a fox mask – remarkably lifelike too – and a long red dress. The effect is frightening but wandering minds are jolted back into life as bright flashes of burning magnesium explode on either side of the stage.

        “‘Musical Box’ and ‘Giant Hogweed’ are greeted by the crowd like old friends and Genesis leave the stage to a standing ovation. The reception does little to calm the minds of Lindisfarne who are still tuning and await their turn anxiously.”

Between groups we were treated a short set by Rab Noakes, the Scottish singer songwriter whose ‘Turn A Deaf Ear’ Lindisfarne covered on their debut LP Nicely Out Of Tune. He, too, was well received.

        Pen and notebook in hand, I watched Lindisfarne for what I think was the eighth time. “[They] open with ‘Meet Me On The Corner’, a safe selection which everybody knows,” I reported. “But there’s a noticeable tension about them. Ray Jackson seems rooted to the spot and Rod Clements is edged into the background. Alan Hull seems determined at the front, ignoring the requests for ‘Fog On The Tyne’ and ‘We Can Swing Together’. Instead he grits his teeth and launches into a selection of songs no one has heard before in Ireland – or most other places for that matter.

        “They do practically the whole of the new Dingly Dell album. ‘Poor Old Ireland’ quietens the crowd so the words can be heard and, much to Hull’s relief, seems to please the Irish rather than antagonise them.

        “‘Dingly Dell’ itself is the most difficult to play. On record Lindisfarne are accompanied by brass and strings, but on stage Simon Cowe substitutes wah-wah guitar for both. The effect is not nearly so spell-binding as on the LP and more subdued lighting would have helped. But it’s a very brave attempt at a song with all the subtleties of ‘A Day In The Life’ – and the tempo changes. The trilogy of songs is a little shaky but comes over well enough considering the changes in instruments that go on. Hull does ‘All Fall Down’ at the organ, switches to bass during the jig ‘Plankton’s Lament’ and ends up on guitar for ‘Bring Down The Government’. After six gigs it’ll doubtless run like clockwork.

        “A new song, not on the new album and not heard before, was included in this show. ‘United States Of Mind’ is another Hull melancholia with an outstanding instrumental break in the middle. It deserves to go on record.

        “Lindisfarne closed with a new version of ‘We Can Swing Together’. It’s tighter and shorter and gone is Ray Jackson’s lengthy harp solo. Inserted in its place is ‘Dingle Regatta’, an instrumental track from the new album that sounds remarkably like an Irish reel. It was a good way to end the show, especially in Ireland.”

* * *

In the event, Lindisfarne’s forward momentum stumbled after Dingley Dell, their third LP, while Genesis went from strength to strength. I still prefer Lindisfarne’s music, and I listened to it a lot earlier this year while writing booklet notes for a multi-CD box set Lindisfarne At The BBC, which Repertoire Records will release in the near future. The notes, all 5,000 words of them, will appear on Just Backdated shortly after the set is released. 

The photograph of Lindisfarne on the tour programme above was taken by my friend Barrie Wentzell. 

23.9.22

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL

Alerted to this CD some weeks ago by Amazon, who thought I might ‘like’ it, I was rather hoping it was recorded during Creedence Clearwater Revival’s concert at the RAH on 27 September 1971, which I attended. It’s not. It’s from a show in April 1970 when CCR was a four piece, and probably all the better for it, though the show I did see – with CCR as a trio – was memorable too, and not just because I watched it from behind them, sat with no one around me on those big steps where choirs stand during the Proms. I can’t remember why, maybe it was because the show was a sell-out and no one thought to send review tickets to Melody Maker until the last minute. Or maybe I blagged my way in on the strength of my MM credentials because I really wanted to see a band whose singles I loved in those days. I still do for that matter.

        Formed at high school in 1959, almost a decade before fame beckoned, firstly as The Blue Velvets, then as The Golliwogs, by the time they became CCR they had accumulated more chops than all their Bay Area rivals combined. This wasn’t the only thing that set them apart from their flower-powered contemporaries. They weren’t improvising country bluesmen like the Dead, psychedelic travellers like the Airplane or blues revivalist like Janis, and they dressed in denims, not yellow kaftans and billowing flares. They were radio-friendly, more AM than FM, and were retro if retro equates as having a foundation in basic rock’n’roll but, 12-bars aside, I’d lean more towards power pop before the term was invented, rock songs that were catchy, short and snappy, with great hooks, fat productions with a churning forward momentum supplied by a rhythm section that rarely took its foot off the pedal. Chooglin’ they called it.

        It wasn’t particularly fashionable but it was popular. I’d hazard a guess that no US band’s top ten hits – they had 13 between 1968 and 1971 – were played more on barroom juke-boxes than those by Creedence. They inspired at least a couple of convincing sound-alike records, among them The Hollies with Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress and a short-lived British trio called Christie whose CCR pastiche ‘Yellow River’ reached number one in the UK charts in 1970. So uncanny was the resemblance that when I saw CCR at the RAH, some audience members actually called out for ‘Yellow River’ during the show. 

        The mastermind of CCR was writer, singer and lead guitarist John Fogerty whose voice seems to me now like a soulful growl somewhere between Joe Cocker and Bruce Springsteen with a teaspoonful of Richard Penniman here and there. On rhythm guitar was his elder brother Tom, soon to leave, alongside bassist Stu Book and drummer Doug Clifford. They sounded like a well-drilled bar band, with fewer personnel than Springsteen’s E Street men but with the same temperament, the same hard-won skills, the same allegiance to rock’s honourable past.

        The new RAH CD contains just 12 songs and clocks in at less than 45 minutes, its longest track the encore, a mammoth eight minutes plus of ‘Keep On Chooglin’, its shortest ‘Travelin’ Band’ at 2.11, which qualifies it for inclusion on a Ramones album. Six songs are less than three minutes, but this parsimony in heft (by today’s CD standards) must not to be mistaken for a lack of quality. On the contrary, every track is rattled off in a seemingly effortless display of rock’n’roll know-how, the kind of flawless perfection that only groups with a thousand or more gigs under their belt can deliver. More importantly, all the way through they sound like they’re truly enjoying themselves playing like this, spurred on by a wildly enthusiastic crowd. 

        They open the show at a relatively modest pace with ‘Born On The Bayou’, introduced by Fogerty’s lead guitar riff. Drums and bass quickly assert the group’s signature sound before Fogerty sings, ‘When I was just a little boy…’, beginning at the beginning as it were, taking his audience to the area of America that inspired so many of CCR’s songs, not light and sunny California but the dark and swampy Deep South where hound dogs bark and hoodoos are chased. At 5.13, it’s the second longest track on the CD, enhanced by between-song guitar parts at a marching-band tempo that are designed not to enable the guitarist to grandstand but to enhance the song. Showboating has no place in CCR. ‘Green River’ follows. 

        My CCR companion for the past 30-odd years has been a 20-track compilation called Chronicle which lacks ‘Tombstone Shadow’, track three on the RAH CD. A mid-tempo 12-bar, it’s the only track that seems a bit like filler to me.

        The pace ramps up considerably for ‘Travelin’ Band’, augmented by some Little Richard-style hollering, which is over in the blink of an eye, and doesn’t let up for ‘Fortunate Son’, their sharp, politically-motivated comment on who gets drafted to Vietnam and who doesn’t. While much is made of San Francisco bands’ commitment to love and peace, CCR were – in their own way – on the side of the righteous too, albeit without wearing their hearts on their sleeves. ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ – not, alas, included here – is a good an allegory the futility of war as anything recorded by their peers.

        ‘Commotion’ whips by before we reach ‘Midnight Special’, recorded by all and sundry, and CCR give the old folk song an almost spiritual feel, at least by their reckoning. Two of their biggest hits, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’ follow back to back, both duplicated note for note from the records, both received rapturously, short and sweet but CCR nirvana on the night. 

        They are followed by ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’, a slow blues written by Lew Herman, aka Herman Lubinsky, the founder of Savoy Records, which dates from 1957. Now thoroughly warmed up, Fogerty gives it his all while the band echo him in an atypical call and response routine. Accelerating into the home straight, they rattle off Little Richard’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ much like The Beatles essayed ‘Long Tall Sally’ and close the show with the eight minutes plus of ‘Keep On Chooglin’’, its rhythm worthy of Little Feat, the pace never letting up for a moment even if the drumming sounds like Doug Clifford was banging a dustbin lid.  

        The booklet notes include an extract from a review by Miles Kingston of The Times who reported that a standing ovation lasted throughout the National Anthem (!) and for a quarter of an hour after that. God save CCR indeed.


7.9.22

BEATLES/EVOLVER:62 – By & With MARK LEWISOHN



To the Bloombury Theatre in WC1 for a preview of Mark Lewisohn’s second public discourse on The Beatles. In 2019 Mark, now universally acclaimed as the world’s leading authority on the Fab Four, expounded on the group’s Abbey Road LP in a talk intriguingly titled Hornsey Road, after a site where EMI almost bought a recording studio so that the famous St John’s Wood premises could be reserved for classical and jazz musicians only. This never happened but if it had The Beatles would have recorded there and, ipso facto, Abbey Road would have been called Hornsey Road.
        This sort of left-field, join-up-the-dots and occasionally slightly surreal thinking illuminates Mark’s outlook when he shares his knowledge with those who, like me, are enthralled by the depth of his research. “The deeper you go, the higher you fly,” he says, introducing his new show, if it can be called that. Beatles/Evolver:62 comprises 62 sparkling gems from his archives that relate, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, to The Beatles’ progress in the year before they exploded into the national consciousness. 
        

        The results of the research Mark expounded on yesterday can be found in the pages of Tune-In, the first book in his multi-volume biography of The Beatles, published in 2013. His talk is essentially a demonstration of his methods, expanded with details that seem all the more profound when extracted from the page and brought into focus by his words and insight. 
        A large screen behind him is filled with icons that represent each of the 62 moments. Some are of great import, like Ringo replacing the hapless Pete Best or the series of events that led to George Martin becoming their producer at Parlophone, and some are trivial but enormously fascinating, like Mark’s claim that on March 7, during what was The Beatles’ first appearance on national radio, on a BBC show broadcast from Manchester called Here We Go, their live cover of The Marvelettes’ ‘Please Mr Postman’ was not only their radio debut but the first time anything from Tamla Motown had been broadcast on BBC radio. 
        Mark revels in coincidences. In the last week of October Paul and a girlfriend called Celia Mortimor hitchhiked to London to see the sights, staying with John’s friend Ivan Vaughan who lived in a flat on Great Portland Street. Deep research on Mark’s part among electoral records has revealed that Dr Richard Asher and his wife Margaret lived in the same building, along with their children, Peter, Jane and Clare, and that George Martin took oboe lessons from Margaret in the same premises. And that week, according to Celia, Paul was working on new song about a girl who was just seventeen. 
        Mark is at pains to get at the truth and disprove myths that have circulated over the years through sloppy reportage. For example, while it is generally accepted that Decca passed on The Beatles following their disappointing audition on January 1, the reality is that Brian Epstein passed on Decca, or at least passed on the terms that Decca offered. This, of course, was to The Beatles’ good fortune in the long term, not least because Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, whom Decca signed instead, were obliged to anonymously record LPs of current hit songs for their downmarket Ace Of Clubs label. Can you imagine JPG&R doing that?
        And, of course, while Decca’s A&R chief Dick Rowe became notorious as the ‘man who passed on The Beatles’, he was far from alone in this. In America Atlantic’s celebrated Jerry Wexler did the same thing, as did Laurie Records whose A&R man at the time was Doug Morris, a future chairman and CEO of the Universal Music Group, subsequently fulfilling the same role at Sony Music. Both were sent copies of ‘Please Please Me’. Strangely, Morris didn’t respond to Mark’s request for a comment on this.
        What did take my breath away was Mark’s research into the no-hopers who were signed by UK record labels while Epstein was desperately trying to get a deal for his Beatles. With the aid of pictures of their actual singles, Mark lists dozens of singers with little or no experience, all of whom made inferior records that went nowhere. Most of these complete unknowns – there were no groups and none played an instrument – were even promoted for having done regular jobs, as if a few years apprenticed to a painter and decorator was all that was required to record a hit. Meanwhile The Beatles, who’d logged up thousands of hours on stage in Liverpool and Hamburg, who had a thriving Fan Club in Liverpool and who were regularly voted Top Group in local polls, were shown the door. 
What were the record companies playing at? What were they thinking? Mark can’t answer those questions, only laugh, as did his preview audience. It was more than simple complacency, or even deafness. The answer, of course, is that in 1962 the UK record industry was a closed shop, run by middle-aged men who dictated what their young consumers were going to get, which was not what they wanted. The Beatles were so new, so different, so self-contained, so engaging, so experienced, so talented and, ultimately, so wanted that no one in the record business could see the wood for the trees. In Mark’s view, what they became wasn’t surprising really, not after you’ve heard him explain how and why it all happened. In a nutshell, they broke the system. 
        The talk is chronological and lasts just over two hours, with a break. Anyone with an interest not only in The Beatles but in the era just before fame beckoned will love it. My only complaint is that in doing shows like this Mark breaks off from writing the second in his trilogy of books, a tome I await with an eagerness now bordering on obsession. 


Beatles/Evolver: 62 is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1, on October 7 at 7.30pm and October 8 at 2.30pm and 7.30 pm. Tickets go on sale from 10am on Friday July 29 and can be obtained from the theatre. Unlike Hornsey Road, as yet Mark has no plans to take his show to other parts of the UK. 

30.8.22

WITHOUT YOU – The Sad Story Of A Sad Hit

Dan Matovina has made it his mission in life to spread awareness of Badfinger, principal songwriters Pete Ham and Tom Evans in particular, and to do his best to prevent others from taking credit for, or benefit from, their work. 

        In the mid-nineties Dan approached me as editor at Omnibus Press to publish his book Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger but I declined, believing it had insufficient commercial potential. This was probably a mistake but I gave Dan some editorial guidance and agreed that if he self-published the book Omnibus would distribute it in the UK on his behalf. This he did in 1997 and not only did it attract a slew of positive reviews, both in the UK and US, but it sold out its original print run.

Dan produced a revised version in 2000, and a few copies of this can occasionally be found on Amazon for prices in excess of £400. More recently he has authorised a kindle version which is easily obtainable. He has plans to produce a third edition that will include all the information he has gleaned in the meantime, and bring the story up to date with the death of drummer Mike Gibbons in 2005 and attempts by guitarist Joey Molland, who in 1969 took over from original member Ron Griffiths, to recreate Badfinger around himself. 

        I wrote quite a bit about Badfinger for Melody Maker. In 1971 I visited them at their large communal house on Park Avenue, a leafy road between Hampstead and Golders Green, where I also met their UK manager, a slightly creepy figure called Bill Collins who, born in 1913, seemed a bit too old for the job to me. I even saw them perform at Carnegie Hall in New York where I encountered Stan Polley, who looked after their US affairs and in the fullness of time would be exposed as an unrepentant fraudster. 

        Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbon and Joey Molland were nice, friendly guys with a bit of a chip on their shoulders about how the media relentlessly compared them with The Beatles, to whose Apple label they were signed. In fairness, the assessment was to some extent valid from a musical standpoint but it probably didn’t help that their first hit, ‘Come And Get It’ (1969), was written by Paul McCartney. Never intended for The Beatles, Paul’s demo of the song can, however, be heard on their third Anthology set.  

        Badfinger went on to record dozens of great power pop songs across six albums with stunning vocal harmonies but diminishing returns. They had two more big hits, ‘No Matter What’ and ‘Day After Day’, but are probably best known nowadays for ‘Baby Blue’, which in 2012 was used on the soundtrack to the hit TV series Breaking Bad, and – even more so – the timeless ‘Without You’, a massive hit for Harry Nilsson in 1972, and again for Mariah Carey in 1994. 

        Even after the success of Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ something intangible seemed to be holding Badfinger back, and it wasn’t until tragedy struck in the form of Ham and Evans’ suicides – in 1975 and 1983 respectively – that the enigma was solved: they’d been swindled out of millions, and the creeping realisation of this, coupled with dire financial circumstances, had crippled them irrevocably. Had they been managed honourably, the royalties from ‘Without You’ alone would have kept both Ham and Evans in comfort for the remainder of their lives.  

        Dan Matovina and I have remained friends and in his Badfinger mission Dan is now facilitating the release of CDs of demos by Pete Ham and The Iveys on behalf of the estates of Ham and Evans, and also former Iveys member Ron Griffiths. Knowing my ongoing interest in Badfinger, about two months ago Dan sent me his two most recent CDs, a Pete Ham Demos Variety Pack, with 23 tracks, opening with Ham’s original demo for ‘Baby Blue’, and what he calls The Iveys Golden Delicious Demos 1966-69, with 20 tracks, some of which became Badfinger recordings. 

        Of particular interest to anyone who finds the Badfinger story as fascinating as it is tragic, is the closing track on The Iveys’ disc, which Dan has called ‘Without You (Early Demos Evolution Edit)’. It’s five different early attempts by Ham and Evans at their most famous song, strung together to form an intriguing demonstration of how ‘Without You’ grew from an idea into reality. 

        The first attempt finds Pete Ham vamping piano chords as he croons the song’s first two verses, the melody intact, but with ‘party’ instead of ‘story’ on the third line. The chorus, however, with its famous line ‘I can’t live if living is without you’, is unrealised and, instead, Ham sings ‘If it’s love that you need’ to a different tune, then breaks off to de-dum-de-dum the next few unwritten words. It breaks off at 1.29. 

        The second attempt, if it can be called that, finds Tom Evans alone singing a song he’s composed called ‘I Can’t Live’ which at this stage is yet to be married to Ham’s earlier song, and was, indeed, entirely unrelated to it. Evans’ song hovers around a similar (but certainly not identical) melody with the words, ‘And now it’s gone I can’t seem to find happiness and good times that I left them all behind, Or is it just another way to let me know that in this life you only reap after you sow.’ After stretching for a high note on ‘sow’, he leaps confidently into the refrain that will become the chorus to ‘Without You’ with its familiar ‘I can’t live…’ opening. This breaks off at 2.22. 

        The third take finds Ham playing his song idea on acoustic guitar, chopping away at chords in the manner of the Everly Brothers, singing solo on the familiar verses one and two, Evans’ alternative lyrics from take two having evidently – and wisely – been jettisoned. “Around that time chronologically he asked Tom if he could try combining his song’s verses with Tom’s song he’d called ‘I Can’t Live’,” says Dan. “This made a new song, which was demoed by The Iveys and, later, Badfinger.”

        In Ham’s hands, the song has now come together, its plaintive melody ringing free on the rhythmic guitar chords. This peters out at 3.20 and lack the chorus…

        … which is stridently sung by Evans at the start of take four, the acoustic guitar having given way to electric with a hint of percussion deep in the mix. This is very brief, less than 30 seconds before there’s a reprise of take one, with Ham at the piano, singing the first verse again – it might be the same take as the opening – before he roams dreamily into a higher register, la-la-la-ing McCartneyesque, and resolves the now completed song on a final piano chord. The whole thing lasts 4.30.

        Unfortunately, the Ivey’s home demo of what became ‘Without You’ is unusable – “Almost erased,” says Dan – and while the Badfinger home demo is unavailable for release for copyright reasons, I’ve been able to hear it. Joey Molland appears on this, singing in the background and contributing a rather thin guitar solo towards the end. The title ‘Without You’ was suggested by producer Geoff Emerick when his studio recording was completed for its inclusion on Badfingers’ second LP No Dice in 1970. On the EMI tape boxes, it was still titled ‘I Can't Live’ until the very last minute. 

        Badfinger’s released version of the song opens with just lead guitar, bass and drums before Ham sings the opening verse over an acoustic guitar, similar to the third take of the demos, with Evans and Molland joining in on the chorus. Although the guitar solo is improved and there’s a much longer fade, next to Nilsson’s highly produced, highly orchestrated version, Badfinger’s final version of ‘Without You’ still sounds almost like a demo itself, not least because the magnificent Nilsson recording has become as well-known as any standard song you care to name. Mariah Carey, of course, turned it into a power ballad that blew the roofs off all nearby buildings, her extraordinary voice leaping into the stratosphere with all the bells and whistles she could command. 

        In his book Dan Matovina explains how after the deaths of Ham and Evans, others in the Badfinger story benefitted by suing for a share of the songwriting royalties generated by the song’s extraordinary and ongoing success. What Dan has done in arranging Pete Ham and Tom Evans’ demos for what became ‘Without You’ on this CD demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that it was these two, and these two alone, who composed this song and that only these two, or their heirs, deserve to benefit from it. In a better world that would have been the case.  

        These Badfinger CDs can be obtained at Http://www.badfingerlibrary.com




27.8.22

ABBA AT 50 by Carl Magnus Palm


Illustrated Abba books have never been in short supply. Publishers long ago assumed that what their fans wanted was a large format book with plenty of photographs, preferably of Agnetha and Frida in clingy costumes that showed off their figures, and a minimum of text that skipped through their glorious career without much detail and certainly nothing negative. Slap it all together and you might have a decent seller on your hands, especially if publication happens to coincide with an anniversary or anything else that raises the Swedish group’s profile for a few months.

        Magnus Palm – he loses the Carl among friends – acknowledges this in a reference to the paucity of serious Abba books in the introduction to Bright Lights Dark Shadows, his definitive, text-led, 250,000+ word biography of Abba first published in 2001 and since fully revised. You could be forgiven, therefore, for assuming that Abba At 50 is a frothy confection just like all the rest. Indeed, it’s not even the only picture book published to celebrate their 50th anniversary, as a glimpse at Amazon’s Abba page reveals another called 50 Years of Abba: The Unofficial Illustrated Book For The Anniversary, and about half a dozen older books whose publishers no doubt hope will get a bounce this autumn.

        In stark terms, Abba At 50 is a summary of the 2014 edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows, drastically but skilfully reduced to 13 concise chapters, with a new overview as an introduction and a 14th chapter, newly written to cover Abba’s 2021 Voyage album and the concurrent Abba avatars show, ongoing in its own arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford in East London. The book’s 240 pages contain 168 photographs, mostly in colour, and a running LP discography, with track listings, personnel and incidental notes, that separates each chapter once Björn, Benny, Frida and Agnetha are up and running.

        Magnus, of course, is now recognised as the world’s leading Abba historian, as Mark Lewisohn is to The Beatles and Dave Lewis to Led Zeppelin. His book isn’t authorised – it doesn’t have Abba’s official logo, with the first B inverted, on its cover – and he doesn’t thank the four members of the group in the brief acknowledgements at the back, aside from noting that Benny Andersson helped him write a book about the Hep Stars, Benny’s first group. He also notes, dryly, that he has ‘somehow ended up being my main source of information’. 

        He’s not exaggerating. By my reckoning, Abba At 50 is Magnus’ seventh Abba book with an eighth a work in progress* but what differentiates it from all the other illustrated Abba books on the market is the precise attention to detail and the certain knowledge that every scintilla of information he offers is 100% accurate. Almost all the photographs are captioned precisely, time, place and circumstance duly noted, which is more than can be said about most illustrated books on pop bands, but no less than I would expect from their most erudite and diligent biographer.  

        Similarly, while there can be no question that Magnus is on Abba’s side – he’s long been the group’s go-to man for sleeve notes on reissues – he is far from slavishly sycophantic. He covers the ups and the downs, the fall outs and periods when Abba’s star wasn’t shining quite as brightly as it does today. The inclusion of three damning review quotes from early in their career at the start of Chapter 2 epitomises his impartial approach, even if the foursome nowadays ruefully admit they weren’t far from the truth. The divorces, fall out with manager Stikkan ‘Stig’ Anderson and overindulgence in alcohol – Björn and Benny have both been obliged to become teetotal – aren’t glossed over either.

        With a £30 cover price (£24.17 on Amazon) Abba At 50 is not the cheapest illustrated Abba book on the market. However, although I haven’t read them all, I’ll put good money on it being the best.

_________

*The others are: The Complete Recording Sessions (1994, 2017), Bright Lights Dark Shadows: The Real Story of Abba (2001, 2002, 2008, 2014), Benny’s Road To Abba (2004), The Complete Guide To The Music Of Abba (2005), From Abba To Mamma Mia (1999, 2000, 2010), Abba: The Backstage Stories (2014, co-author) & Abba On Record (scheduled for publication 2023). 





11.8.22

DIARY OF A TEDDY BOY - A LIFE WELL LIVED – by Mim Scala

Back when Derek Taylor called it the industry of human happiness, the music business attracted into its bosom all sorts of functionaries whose precise role was unclear yet whose contributions were crucial to the oiling of its wheels. Duckers and divers par excellence, one day they’d be managing a band, the next promoting a show or doing a bit of PR for someone, the next working as someone’s road manager or general ‘fixer’, and the next hooking one musician up with another so that the sum of both talents was greater than as individuals. These people seemed to know everyone who was worth knowing and had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and when I was in the midst of it all I met many of them, in both the UK and America, often unintentionally, and whenever I did they invariably welcomed me into their midst and turned out to be hugely entertaining company. 

        What they had in common was that they were smooth, well-travelled, well-tailored individuals who never lost their cool, and Emilio ‘Mim’ Scala fits the role perfectly. I didn’t actually get to know him until 1980, when he was operating out of an office building in Newman Passage which also housed a PR company called TNT, one of whose directors was my girlfriend, name of Jenny. She was in awe of him, and although neither of us were quite sure precisely what he did, somehow or other we found ourselves drawn into situations in which Mim was involved, the strangest of which was a visit to the UK by Mortimer Planno, a renowned Rastafarian elder, whose temporary lodgings in Notting Hill Jenny and I visited together. It was a bit smoky in there. Danny Simms, the Jamaican music entrepreneur who was among the first in this line of work to finance and promote Bob Marley, was another and I seem to recall meeting Rita Marley around the same time too, and helping Jenny write a press release about the purpose of her visit to the UK.

        Then Jenny and I parted company and Mim went off my radar until I was editing a book on Marianne Faithfull and there he was again, escorting her to New York to appear on Saturday Night Live, a hazardous assignment since Marianne was prone to lapses in judgement involving substance abuse that impacted on her ability to remain standing, let alone perform. Somehow or other, Mim rescued a tricky situation, and this episode is just one of the 57 short chapters that make up his roller-coaster ride of a life, all documented in Diary of a Teddy Boy: A Life Lived Well, first published in 2001 with a different subtitle but now updated and available again as a hardback. 


        The grandson of an Italian immigrant, Mim simply wasn’t cut out for the conventional life. Barely out of his teens, he found himself in a number of scrapes, one of which involved his exposure to rock’n’roll via Blackboard Jungle (1955) and a bust-up in the cinema, another a gambling den visited by the Kray Twins. Hanging out around Soho and the King’s Road, he became a movie extra – where he encountered future Led Zep manager Peter Grant as a Macedonian warrior, on the set of Cleopatra (1963) – then found a berth as a booking agent, representing both actors and musicians, many of whom would become household names. 

        Next Mim hit the hippy trail, hanging out in places where the weather enforced a minimal of clothing, squiring beauties, some of them from landed families, doing a bit of painting and recording ethnic music in Morocco, Spain and Sri Lanka. Returning to the UK, he worked for Island Records for a while, which explains the Jamaican connection, and went on to manage record producers, among them Chris Kimsey, who worked with the Stones, another act he’d befriended in the sixties, Brian and Keith – the least conventional ones, of course – in particular. Later in the eighties, he reformed The Animals, jammed with Jimmy Page and discovered that Marlon Brando loved faking loud farts in public. 

        If there is a theme to his book, it is that Mim was a lucky so-and-so, and that life was better when he was in his prime. Moving from the fifties to the sixties, Mim’s world changes from black and white to colour, and if you were in the right place, and had the nerve to stay there regardless of life’s ups and downs, the ride was unforgettable. Each of Mim’s 57 chapters details a different adventure, some of them wild, others hilarious, involving a cast of characters that make up a Who’s Who of the music and film world, weapons grade name-dropping on just about every page. And he isn’t kidding – when the first edition of this book was published there was a launch party I attended at which John Hurt gave a reading.

The author with Sir John Hurt

        Finally, it would be remiss of me not to point out that for all the fun and games it relates, the book is on the sloppy side as regards editorial precision. In a brief foreword, Mim explains that he is dyslexic and wrote the book “with as little help as possible from copy readers, ghost writers or editors”. He isn’t kidding there either, so be prepared to overlook some odd chronological lurches, slapdash editing and typesetting, and Townshend without an h.


4.8.22

BOB GRUEN & LEEE BLACK CHILDERS


To the D'Stassi Art Gallery in Hoxton to see my old pal Bob Gruen who has generously agreed that his pictures share wall space with a selection by Leee Black Childers, another old photographer pal of mine who sadly died in 2014. That’s not a typo: Leee really did spell his name with three e’s, though I think he was christened with two. 


        Leee was as camp as a Butlins holiday, a flamboyant gay man who died his hair blonde and didn’t need to came out because he was never in. He was drawn to Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and the drag queens who assembled there, and he photographed them all. This led him to become involved with Warhol’s Pork, a sexually provocative play staged at London’s Roundhouse that enticed David Bowie. Before anyone knew it Leee found himself employed as a photographer-cum-tour manager at Mainman, the company formed by Tony DeFries to manage Bowie, where he was in his element.  

Lee with three e's

        Iggy and Mott The Hoople inevitably entered his orbit but, like everyone else among the colourful crew that manned Mainman, Leee was jettisoned when David realised how much this was all costing. Next, Leee found a natural habitat amongst the punk and new wave bands that followed, not least Jayne County, whom he managed, pre-Blondie Debbie Harry and the Sex Pistols. In mid-stream he befriended the Dolls, and many pictures of these acts, taken by Leee, can be found at D’Stassi. 

        As for Bob, a handful of his pictures – probably 0.0001% in reality – have been enlarged to what he described in an email to me as versions of “images I've printed on large scale canvas”. He’s not kidding, they’re huge and there’s three of them: John Lennon in his New York shirt (perhaps Bob’s best known – daughter Olivia sent me a PC from NY with this image not so long ago), Led Zeppelin (by their plane) and The Clash (live, looking like they mean business), all classic photos but they’re on the pricey side so you’ll need to start saving now if you want them to hang on your wall by Christmas. 

        One of Leee’s is pretty big too, a shot of Bowie, seen above, but I was more impressed by a series of Elvis, taken during his New York Press conference on June 9, 1972. This was a year and a bit before I became Melody Maker’s man in NY, but my colleague Roy Hollingworth was there to report on it. I was in London, green with envy. Here’s my favourite shot of Elvis by Leee.

        Last night Bob was on hand to sign copies of the catalogue and his own book Right Place Right Time, published last year, in which I make a cameo appearance. “I went to see The Stilettos, the band Debbie Harry was in before Blondie, with Chris Charlesworth, NY correspondent for the British weekly music magazine Melody Maker,” writes Bob. “Television as also on the bill that night, which means Chris was one of the first journalists to catch the new scene that was happening in New York City.” 

        I remember that night as if it was yesterday, but I’m a bit confused. We first saw Debbie in The Stilettos at the 82 Club in April, 1974, and she was a platinum blonde, her hair bouncy and covering her ears, but at this exhibition there’s a pic by Leee, dated that same year, that shows her with short dark hair. See below. 

        Maybe it was taken earlier in 1974, before blondeness became Debbie’s destiny. Next time I see Bob I’ll ask him about that. The exhibition ends on August 19. 


30.7.22

TOM WRIGHT

Tom in 1962, when he was at Ealing Art School with Pete

News has come through that legendary Who photographer and tour manager Tom Wright has died in the US. 

        The Who have many reasons to be grateful to Tom. A contemporary of Pete Townshend at Ealing Art College in 1962, he introduced Pete to marijuana and a host of great American R&B and blues artists. When he skipped the country to avoid a drug charge he left behind a wondrous record collection that Pete snaffled and which became the impetus for The Who’s switch from pop and C&W to Maximum R&B. 

        Equally importantly, Tom would go on to become the group’s first American tour manager and unofficial photographer, and many of his photographs from The Who’s earliest US tours have been reproduced in countless books and magazines.  

        Among the most famous was of Keith Moon alongside the Holiday Inn sign at Flint, Michigan, the scene of his infamous 21st birthday party. 

“Pete telegrammed me [in 1967] to say The Who were coming to the US to tour with the British pop band Herman’s Hermits,” said Tom. “They’d be in Florida in a week… and when I got there Pete suggested I come on tour with them and shoot photographs of the band. So here I was, 23-years-old, camera around my neck, passport in my back pocket, boarding a chartered plane because Herman’s Hermits were so big, they rated it.”

In 2022, with The Who esteemed as mighty legends of rock, pioneers in the art of performance and superstars both alive and dead, it seems absurd to recall that in the summer of 1967, on their first American tour, they were the support act for the far more popular Herman’s Hermits. With 11 top ten hits behind them when the tour started – The Who had only one – Herman and his boys were riding out the crest of the British Invasion wave, drawing predominantly female audiences for whom The Who were distinctly odd, especially when they closed their brief sets by inflicting serious damage to their guitars, drums and amplifiers. 

         Tom was on board for almost all of that first tour. It began on July 13 in Calgary, Canada, and closed on September 9 in Honolulu, a nine-week coast-to-coast jaunt on which they often played two shows in one day. It was a gruelling experience and probably not worth the effort. “It got us around America,” said Roger Daltrey, “but it did us no good at all.”       

Tom was working as an underwater photographer when he joined The Who at St Petersburg in Florida. “The Who came to Florida and that was the end of my underwater photography career,” he says. “These young kids would be yelling, ‘Where’s Herman, we want Herman’ and then The Who would start playing before the curtain came up,” he told Who biographer Richard Barnes. “When the curtain came up, they would be really rocking and everybody was just moving about, like Roger would be running around and Pete would be swinging his arm and hammering the guitar and Moonie would be kicking ass. And people were in shock. The band didn’t stop between numbers... or they’d quit playing for just a couple a couple of seconds, but it would be just long enough and BOOM into the next number.”

Toms shot of The Who at the Fillmore East, New York, April 5, 1968

        This was the period in The Who’s career when wrecking their equipment at the end of a set was a regular occurrence. “It was spellbinding,” adds Tom.  “A lot of times there was no clapping whatsoever, just dead silence. People in the front row were just sitting there with their mouths open, stunned.”

Tom would go on to tour manage The Who in America for two tours during 1968, photographing them along the way, on stage, in recording studios, in their coach and at hotels. He quit in late 1968 after accepting a position as manager of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, one of the era’s most important rock venues. 

The tours that Tom photographed laid the foundation for The Who’s eventual capture of an American tour circuit they helped create. This hardly existed during the first British Invasion of America, the one led by The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and it developed as pop became rock, with audiences beginning to listen seriously to groups whose music was no longer aimed predominantly at teenage girls. During Tom’s tenure as The Who’s tour manager the group pioneered a new concept of rock performance, with the music they played becoming more and more sophisticated as their shows became longer and more expressive. They also became more photogenic.

The following year The Who opened their first headlining US tour on February 21 in San Jose, California, and while in the Golden State made a madcap, stop-start promotional film for ‘Call Me Lightning’, a song released as a single in the US and completed at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles around this time. Tom was on hand to photograph the group in tin helmets and fooling around with an explosive detonator.  


        Just as they done in the UK, The Who blazed a trail across America through the potency of their live shows and Tom was on hand to watch it all happen. Unlike the British pop bands that preceded them, there was no run of chart-topping US singles or historic appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and nor did they reduce teenage girls to screaming banshees as they flew from city to city. They didn’t so much crash down Uncle Sam’s gates as slide in through a gap after the doors had been left ajar by the others, but the hard work they put in ensured that in the fullness of time The Who would become a stadium-filling juggernaut in the seventies and beyond. 

Tom Wright’s pictures of The Who in America captured a fascinating but often-overlooked period in the journey of one of the UK’s greatest ever rock bands.  

Tom’s book Roadwork: Rock’n’Roll Turned Inside Out, published in the UK by Omnibus Press as Raising Hell On The Rock ‘N Roll Highway, features an intro by Pete which I posted on Just Backdated here: https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2015/03/raising-hell-petes-introduction-to-tom.html

An Ealing Art School reunion



26.7.22

TRAFFIC & FREE IN HOLLAND, 1970


I am reminded by a scan on Facebook of a copy of Melody Maker from July 25, 1970, that 52 years ago last weekend I was in Holland reporting on a brief tour of the country by Traffic, Free and Bronco, my first ever trip abroad on an assignment for MM. I’d only been on the paper for just over a month so this was a big deal for me, so much so that I remember calling my dad and sister up in Yorkshire to let them know that this new job of mine involved foreign travel, a fairly exotic concept in those days. Truth to tell, it was only the second time I’d been in an aeroplane. 


I have reproduced the actual page from MM above, and I remember the trip very well. There was a TV show somewhere out in the country and concerts in The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood missed their flight from Heathrow, and on the way to the TV station the driver got lost in the midst of a forest with Steve Winwood and myself in the back of his car. I was supposed to be interviewing him during the drive but our whereabouts were of more concern to him, and all I got out of the boy genius were a few quotes about his need to increase Traffic’s line-up. Having spent the last five years of my life as a newspaper reporter I duly wrote up a story for MM’s news pages under the headline: WANTED: TWO TRAFFIC MEN. 

“We want another two musicians in the group,” Steve told me in the back of that car. “We want another keyboard man and a bass guitarist but we are looking for people who can play more than one instrument. I am doing too much work. It’s very difficult playing bass and singing and playing lead organ in between. I could concentrate on singing better without playing bass as well.”

        Steve wasn’t kidding about doing too much work. I watched three shows and came away in awe of his musicianship, the way he played bass on the pedals of his Hammond while he sang and held down the melody on the keys. I think that for one or two songs he even played an electric guitar, a white Strat, while sat at the organ, still playing bass on the pedals and singing, truly the performance of a maestro. 

        I’d already encountered Free, then topping the UK charts with ‘All Right Now’ which seemed to have crossed the North Sea and was already familiar to Dutch audiences, and I’d been up to watch them in Sunderland where they caused a minor riot. It wasn’t like that in Holland where none of the concerts were sold out, even with Traffic topping the bill. I recall that a group of us, including Paul Rodgers, were walking down a street in The Hague when we heard ‘All Right Now’ blasting out from the speakers outside a club called Tiffany’s but when we tried to go inside the doorman refused us entry because Paul’s hair was too long. “Can I have my record back?” he asked. 

Back at our hotel a local covers band was entertaining punters and some of our party commandeered their instruments for a jam; Jim Capaldi on drums, Steve on a piano, Kevin Gammond and Robbie Blunt from Bronco on guitars and their singer Jess Roden on vocals. Boldly, I volunteered to play bass so long as our repertoire didn’t extend beyond 12-bars in easy keys which it didn’t, thankfully. In fact, we only managed two numbers before the local group demanded their instruments back. “It might have had something to do with volume switches being tampered with,” I reported in MM.

After watching the three shows, I wrote that whole page in MM about the trip and came away with an enhanced admiration for Traffic and high hopes for both Free and Bronco. “Full marks to Traffic who played superbly throughout the tour,” I concluded. “Free have yet to establish themselves abroad in the same way they have established themselves at home. Bronco are a group with a future.”

As you can probably guess the tour was an Island Records package, and I think it was at the Rotterdam show where Island’s publishing chief Lionel Conway and myself befriended a couple of free-spirited American girls who obligingly joined us in the hotel room we shared, another first for me insofar as all previous encounters of this nature had been conducted in private. 

This MM job doesn’t lack potential, I thought when I got back to the office and typed up my first report from across the waves.